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Fort Hood soldier Elder Fernandes' death ruled suicide by hanging

A preliminary autopsy provided few details but did say Elder Fernandes died after hanging himself.

TEMPLE, Texas — A preliminary autopsy report shows Fort Hood Sgt. Elder Fernandes, 23, died of suicide by hanging.

Temple police said Fernandes' body was found hanging from a tree Aug. 25 near railroad tracks along S. 49th St. Fernandes was last seen alive Aug. 17 in Killeen. 

The autopsy was performed by Dr. Stephen Lenfest at the Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas.

Fort Hood said Fernandes was part of a sexual abuse investigation. Fernandes reported someone grabbed his buttocks according to Criminal Investigation Division Agent Damon Phelps.

Phelps said in a press conference on Aug. 28 their investigation into Fernandes' claim found it to be unsubstantiated.

Natalie Khawam, the attorney for the Fernandes family, claimed Fernandes was harassed by his sergeant. Fort Hood CID did not identify the subject of their investigation.

Khawam also represents Vanessa Guillen's family. She was killed April 22 on post. A criminal complaint said Aaron Robinson killed Guillen with a hammer then, with the help of Cecily Aguilar, dismembered her body and buried the remains near the Leon River in Bell County.

Guillen's death sparked a nationwide movement using #IAmVanessaGuillen to expose sexual abuse and harassment in the military. Her family said she told them she was harassed by a superior but she did not report it for fear of retaliation. Fort Hood said they never found evidence of the harassment claim.

The Army announced Tuesday that Gen. John Murray, commanding general of Army Futures Command, and one of the Army’s most senior commanders will lead an in-depth investigation into the chain of command actions related to Spc. Vanessa Guillen.

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